Van Genderen family share their story of life in lockdown

Jason van Genderen, his son Art and Oma enjoying a warm afternoon in home isolation

A Forresters Beach family have been featured in the first episode of a new documentary series telling the stories of everyday Australians during COVID-19.

Jason van Genderen and his family attracted international attention when a video featuring his 87-year-old mother Hendrika, better known as Oma, went viral.

Oma lives with Alzheimers and vascular dementia and with her being in the high risk category for the coronavirus, the family made the decision to isolate early.

As the founder of Terrigal based content creation studio, Treehouse Creative, Jason used his time in isolation to capture some of the trials and tribulations of what living through a pandemic means for someone like his mum and the people that care for them.

One of those videos included a makeshift trip to Coles for Oma who was missing her weekly grocery shop.

It went viral and has since garnered over 15 million views.

It was also picked up by international media including The Late Late Show with James Corden and Good Morning America.

It’s the most popular in a series of videos created by Jason that offer a light-hearted glimpse into how his family are caring for Oma during the pandemic, but his segment on iwonder’s new documentary, Coronavirus & Me, is a more candid take on just how hard it can be to look after someone who can’t understand what’s going on.

“The videos I’ve shared so far have mostly been about finding those little moments of joy during the pandemic but my segment in the documentary is a little more raw.

“This is a once in a 100 year event and there’s no coping skills for something like this,” Jason said.

In his segment Jason speaks about the challenges his family has faced juggling life in lockdown with Oma’s inability to comprehend why her world has changed so drastically.

“Since the start of the pandemic we’ve been saturated with information about the virus but for Oma it’s constantly a new discovery, one that sometimes needs to be explained upwards of 20 times a day,” Jason said.

For Jason the questions are the hardest part.

“Once you explain the situation the questions start coming; why can’t I go to the shops, why can’t we go for a coffee, that sort of thing.

“We have to explain the implications of the virus in a global sense but with her cognitive impairment there’s just no way for Oma to filter or retain that information.

“It’s been a good lesson in love and patience,” Jason said.

And that lesson appears to have resonated with millions of people, with the family receiving daily messages of support from people the world over since Oma’s shopping adventure went viral.

“We’ve been getting hundreds of beautiful messages from people about their own experiences of caring for someone with a disability and it’s really humbling to think something you can make on your phone in home isolation can reach millions of people,” Jason said.

With his family’s story now out on Coronavirus & Me, Jason said future videos with Oma would continue to broach important and sometimes confronting topics.

“The videos have brought a lot of people and families hope and joy, but they’ve also brought them context for what life is like for people living with disability and for their caregivers and that’s something I want to continue.

“I hope they help educate people about what life is like for people on both sides of the disability,” Jason said.

All of Jason and Oma’s videos are available to view on the Facebook page Omas Applesauce.

Episode one of Coronavirus & Me can be viewed on iwonder’s Facebook page and Central Coast residents are encouraged to submit their own stories of life in lockdown to the iwonder team for consideration in future episodes.

Source: Press release, May 5, 2020 – Lee Robson, iwonder Video, May 5, 2020 – Coronaviurs & Me episode one Interview, May 6, 2020 – Jason van Genderen, Forresters Beach

Reporter: Dilon Luke